Design & UX
By Richa Jain

Why Good Web Design Doesn’t Cost $50

By Richa Jain
Glittery 50 banknote text

Photo credit: frankieleon

What?! That’s way too much for a web design!

If you’ve been around in the industry, you’ve probably heard that one a number of times.

You probably even had the er, pleasure, of interacting with clients who’ve been window-shopping for the cheapest website.

When faced with a client who claims you’re too expensive, there are two paths that designers fall into by default

  • Apologize and offer lower rates – this is usually done by newbie designers, who just want to get hold of any client at all.
  • Walk away in a huff – this is usually senior, experienced designers, who know the value they bring to the table. If they’re smart, they’ll skip the ‘huff’ and just leave gracefully, knowing the client is not the right fit for them.

Squeezing cash

Catch is, most of us fall in between those categories. We’re not newbies desperate for clients, and on the other hand, we can’t afford to walk away from too many clients. We’re looking for a mid path where we can charge a good rate that genuinely reflects the quality of our services and the value we bring.

So how do you address this problem? What do you do when clients think you’re quoting too high?

First, take a minute to understand where clients are coming from. When they say your rates are too high it usually comes down to either of

  1. They just don’t have that kind of budget. In this case, unless the client has a really high visibility project or something so close to your heart that you’re willing to work for free, politely decline. Don’t haggle. It cheapens you. You could perhaps offer to work out a smaller part of a project for the lower fee. Offer whatever free help you can at the moment like links to other resources to make the website themselves, or recommend a designer that fits their budget.
  2. They do have the budget, BUT they feel the price exceeds the value of your services. This means you haven’t really pitched them well. You need to work on making potentials clients understand, and appreciate, the value and the benefits of working with you – in your pitch ie before you even quote them a rate.

Here’s concrete steps on how to prep potential clients to appreciate the value of your web design services.

Highlight the Real Goal of Their Website

Hip pocket

Too many new business owners think of a website like an online business card. When they approach a designer, the only idea in their mind, is that they need a website – and no specific idea of what they want. The prettiest or shiniest new thing will do just fine.

Make them understand that a website isn’t just about looking pretty.

The real goal of a website is to generate revenues.

A website is about creating value for your viewers – identifying their pain points, connecting with them, building trust, and then ultimately leveraging that connection, that trust, to make a sale.

An effective website is your best salesperson.

Anyone can put together a website – even for free. But designing for both conversation and conversion is a special skill set that doesn’t come cheap.

Walk Them Through Your Process


Designing a website is not about pulling up a template and putting in some graphics. There’s a whole lot of research that goes into the right kind of layout, the graphics, the colors, the fonts and every other aspect of the website.

As part of your pitch or proposal, explain your process to prospective clients. How do you do the research, figure out the layouts, choose color schemes etc? While you may not want to, explaining this helps prospective clients understand, and appreciate, the kind of effort required and the level of detail you put into for creating elegant and effective websites.

You can use this infographic to walk clients through the website creation process and show them what actually goes on behind the scenes.

Show You Understand Their Audience

When going through the design process to finalise things like layout and color scheme, many new business owners tend to choose a color/layout that they like. Or their spouse likes.

But the real test of any website is whether it provides viewers what they came looking for, and then entices them to stay long enough to subscribe or buy.

So, keep the focus to their end customers, right from the start.

In your proposal, show that you understand their audience, their dreams, their fears. When it comes to engaging viewers, and building trust, you already know what will go down well with their audience. Highlight where and how you bring your insights into play.


Issues with Cheap Design or Templates

Lettering template

There are many free templates and cheap design studios that could put together a website for anyone. On Fiverr, you have people setting up WordPress sites for $5-$40. If that’s the kind your client wants, then great, gently redirect them to Fiverr. You’re not in that race.

Instead, work on showing your clients the value of a good design, and what good design is really all about. Put together a small ebook or some blog posts with examples or teardowns of good vs bad website design, or the most common issues with free/cheap templates. Use examples, both good and bad, with focus on :

  • Ease of Use
  • Visual Appeal
  • Coherence
  • Authority
  • Clear Call to Actions
  • Use of images and graphics

and then share it with your clients in the discovery process, or in one of the early discussions.

Don’t Forget Your USP

You may have created a nice brand and website for yourself – but don’t assume your prospective client already ‘gets’ it or will ‘get’ it once they start working with you.

At some part of your pitching process, take a few minutes out to explicitly talk about the unique perspective and skills you bring to the table – what your USP is all about. Showcase the years of expertise you bring. Share stories from other happy clients in similar industries.

Remember to Focus on Benefits vs Features

It can be tempting to list out the ‘features’ you’ll provide for their site. And like this article elaborates, the features and inclusions for a $5k website will be very different from those on a $25k website.

Design is subjective. It’s personal.

Don’t just list out the features you’ll add to their website. Don’t assume that they’ll automatically understand the value those features add. Instead talk about the benefits – the value each of those features will bring to their end users. Show how all of those design elements tie in to their bottom line.

Leverage Your OWN Website

I know, that’s a long list of insights to educate potential clients about. But honestly we have only a short window to really pitch clients. So how do go about conveying all of this?

There’s a simple solution. Leverage your own website. Put up a few blog posts, or perhaps small eBooks covering

  • “How to choose the right web designer”
  • "The 10 MUST HAVEs for your website"
  • "How to make sure your website converts!"
  • "20 Signs your web designer is terrible" (of course, make sure you don’t fall into that category!)

Think ahead and answer all of their questions, all their concern,s on your website up front. This gives you a chance to pre-empt them, and show you already understand their concerns, and frame your responses in a way that's beneficial to you.

So, how have you dealt with price sensitive clients in the past? What's the one think you're going to change about your approach going ahead? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Think about it this way – if you never have clients tell you that you’re too expensive, you’re probably not charging enough in the first place!

  • Brandon Villano

    Great post. Makes me think about those who ask me how do I compete with the free and cheap DIY website builders out there. I tell them those

  • adaivanoff

    It depends on why the client is price sensitive. In addition to those who don’t have the budget and who think I’m overpriced, there are also clients, who know the going rate, know that I am slightly over or even below it but they still try to squeeze good work for the price of a Fiverr bid. Not exactly freeloaders, but close to. I just walk away because even if I manage to convince them that what I offer isn’t overpriced, they will always be unhappy and greedy and will always try to get as much as they can for as low as possible.

    • Agreed! That’s exactly the kind of clients you’d rather not be working with. They’re just not worth the headache.

  • James Edwards

    Interesting, I tend to take the exact opposite of your conclusion. If a client says that they don’t have the budget, then I’ll negotiate with them to see what they can afford. But if a client says they don’t think the service is worth that much, then I walk away.

    If a client doesn’t appreciate the value of professional services, then it’s not up to me to teach them. I’ve tried, and I just end up going through the same thing with every job, and they never really appreciate it.

    But if a client does appreciate the value, but simply can’t afford it, then that’s something different, that’s something I can respect.

    • LouisLazaris

      But how do you differentiate between someone who doesn’t have a budget and someone who doesn’t appreciate the value of the service but is pretending they don’t have a budget? To me, those two are basically same thing, because there’s often no guarantee that your judgement of the situation is going to be correct.

      • James Edwards

        Well yeah, you can’t always tell, you have to make a judgement call, and sometimes that’s wrong. But people give clues by the way they talk, how they explain their situation, how they describe to you what they want. A certain amount of intuition is required, and it’s a gamble.

        Sometimes it pays off, with appreciative clients who’s businesses pick up and they go on to pay a better rate. Sometimes you just get scammed and don’t want to work for that client again.

        Since I tend to specialise in accessibility, it’s not easy to put a bottom-line value on that, because the value of it can’t really be expressed in such straightforward terms; its value is in user enablement. Does the client understand that? That’s how I tell :-)

    • > If a client says that they don’t have the budget, then I’ll negotiate with them to see what they can afford

      Catch is – such negotiations take time and effort. You often end up spending way too many un-billable hours just trying to chalk out what the client wants, and what you can offer them, within their budget. And more often that not, that’s too little to really meet the client’s needs and the discussion just fetters out.

      I think the only exception would be cases where the potential client gives you such a great vibe, that you WANT to work for them, with them, and don’t really care about the budget.

      • James Edwards

        It takes an hour over Skype to find out either way :-) Ask them what they can afford, listen to them talk about their needs, decide whether I want to work on that basis.

  • Ashartipu

    Very informative and really thanks for giving me space.

  • Nice post Richa. I would add that it’s also necessary to research the market as a newbie too. It’s very difficult to know if you’re getting the pricing balance right when you become a freelancer and this can make you underconfident which leads to you underselling yourself. Designers should carry out competitor research, find out what the going rate in the local area is too and price accordingly.

    Sites like fivver cheapen the whole thing for all of us sadly. And make it difficult again for newbies when a client says “I can get that done on givver for $75” as it’s so hard to walk away from work.

  • Agree with post. $50 is not more. I have a website which is in designing phase and also I am gonna buy one more domain. It will be for healthcare industry and initially it will have around 5 pages. So i want to know what will be the designing cost. It will per page or whole website.

  • Bill White

    As for me be an client and disable!
    I found it hard to an web designer that will work for less $500 just to put an simple basic 2 or 5 page site, while here i’m KCMO it is!
    And for newbie like me i know everyone got to make an bluck!
    I just wish some y’all will come to an half way point with your skill!

  • Excellent post! However, I know you agree there are two sides to this challenge. For every potential client seeking to get over on a designer, there is an agency promising quality service and then bleeding the client dry.

    If the consensus among a majority of individuals and businesses is that web design is too expensive, while web designers hold that few understand the true value and work that goes into the process, it’s going to provide a point of reference for bluffers on both sides.

    Again, I love your article. It definitely provides valued insight on the topic. I produced a video focused on the client perspective that I think would add further depth to your post here and the discussion as a whole.

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